Border Patrol Must Obtain Warrant Before Searching Americans’ Phones
A bipartisan group of lawmakers introduced a bill this week that would require law enforcement officers to obtain probable cause warrants before searching U.S. citizen’s digital devices at the border.
The bill was introduced amidst several reports of Customs and Border Protection agents pressing Americans to hand over their devices or reveal their passwords at the border. Most notably, CBP agents detained a U.S.-born NASA scientist at the border in February until he unlocked his phone.
The Protecting Data at the Border Act — introduced by Sens. Ron Wyden, D-Ore. and Rand Paul, R-Ky., and Reps. Jared Polis, D-Colo., and Blake Farenthold, R-Texas — would also bar officials from delaying or denying someone’s entry to or exit from the U.S. if the person declined to give their login information, reports FedScoop.
“Americans’ constitutional rights shouldn’t disappear at the border,” Wyden said in a statement. “By requiring a warrant to search Americans’ devices and prohibiting unreasonable delay, this bill makes sure that border agents are focused on criminals and terrorists instead of wasting their time thumbing through innocent Americans’ personal photos and other data.”
The Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT) released a statement Tuesday in support of the bill, stating that a citizen’s Constitutional rights should not disappear at the border.
“A search of your cell phone or social media account is a direct look behind the curtain that covers the most intimate aspects of your life. A border stop shouldn’t be an excuse for extreme surveillance such as downloading the entire contents of your phone. This bill would ensure that the government demonstrates a good reason for searches at the border, and that a judge agrees,” said Greg Nojeim, CDT Director, Freedom, Security, and Technology Project.
According to the summary, the bill also requires that Americans are made aware of their rights before consenting to give up online account information or allow law enforcement to access their personal devices.
“This bill is overdue, and I am glad we can come together in a bicameral, bipartisan manner to ensure that Customs and Border Patrol agents don’t continue to violate essential privacy safeguards,” Polis said in a statement.
Posted in General News